Rock ‘n Roll USA Half Marathon Race Recap

One of the many great things about running is that it gives me an excuse to travel more. Every time I look into a place I’d like to visit, I check to see if there is a local race. This St. Patrick’s Day weekend was one of those running trips as I was able to travel to Washington DC to run the Rock’ N Roll USA Half Marathon. I’m lucky to have family living in the area and, to help defray some of the travel costs, my cousin and his wife were kind enough to let me stay with them for the weekend.
My weekend started on Friday morning when I left the house a 5:30 AM and began the 8.5 hour trip to Washington DC. This was the first time making that drive solo and it really was a nice drive. I loaded up the phone with podcasts and hit the turn pike.
A couple of days before, I found out that two of my other running friends would be at the race expo as well so we had planned to meet up at 3PM.

At around 2:30 I pulled into the RFK stadium parking lot and headed over to the National Guard Armory where I eventually met up with my friends Liz and Joy.



The Expo was a little smaller than most Disney race expo’s but much larger than some of the local Half Marathon’s I’ve run. Liz and I picked up our bibs and the three of us did a little shopping. It was nice to see runDisney at the expo and even nicer that they were handing our cool bags for us to use.
After the expo we headed into Foggy Bottom and had dinner near the GWU campus. Mediterranean food is wonderful the night before the race and my first day in DC was awesome.

Race Day


Saturday morning started at 5AM when the alarm went off. The race wasn’t scheduled to start until 7:30 but I wanted to get downtown early to avoid the traffic. I had originally planned on taking the Metro into the city but my cousins were gracious enough to drive me instead so I wouldn’t have to wait at the station by my lonesome self.
The starting line of the race was at 14th and Constitution right next to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. It was really cool to have the corrals lined up next to the museum but the corral system they had was a bit different than what I was used to. They numbered the corrals from 1 all the way to 31. The first corral went off at 7:30 with each subsequent corral starting about a minute after the previous one had gone off.


Once we got rolling the course headed down Constitution Avenue, past the White House and the Washington Monument.


In this photo you can see the White house in the background on the right if you look really close. I was late in getting my camera out of the running belt so I missed the good shot.


The Washington monument was great as usual but they were still finishing some rehab work that was necessary due to an earthquake back in 2012.

Once we hit 18th street it was time for a slight detour down Virginia Avenue and then back on to Constitution where we ran past the Lincoln Memorial.


This part of the race was awesome because I was feeling great and there was a ton of scenery to look at. Running past the Lincoln Memorial was incredible and the bands they had playing were really good.

We next did an out and back over the Arlington Memorial bridge which gave me another great view of the city. It also gave me a chance to see Liz when she was coming back from the turnaround as well as many of my fellow Half Fanatic group members.


My favorite moment during the race came when we exited the bridge. There was a band playing by the Lincoln Memorial and the lead guitarist was jamming the guitar solo to “All Along the Watch Tower”. It was so cool hearing that song while running past the Lincoln Memorial.


After this part of the course we headed past the Kennedy Center where the Kennedy Center Honors are held.

Speaking of the Kennedy Center, one of my all-time favorite performances happened there when Heart played Stairway to Heaven back in 2012. Led Zeppelin was being honored that night and the song Heart played gives me goose bumps every time I watch it. Here is a good version of it on YouTube so you can check it out for yourself.

From here we ran up Waterside drive past many of the foreign embassy buildings. This is where we had to run up the most difficult hill on the course. It was a long uphill curve and by the time I got to the top the people around me were exhausted. I was a bit winded but at this point I was actually doing ok.


Just after mile nine we headed down North Capitol Street for almost two miles. This was really cool because the entire time we were on this road we could see the Capitol Building in front of us.


Around mile 12 my calves were really starting to tighten up. I had to abandon my intervals and only run when I could get my legs top stop cramping. This tells me two things:

1. I ran too fast towards the beginning of the race.
2. I need to practice running longer at a faster race pace to get my muscles used to the speed at longer distances.

I eventually made it to the finish line where Joy greeted me with my post-race food! She was a volunteer for the race and it was awesome to see her smiling face at the end.


Final Thoughts

The expo was large enough to spend a couple hours in but not too crowded. The volunteers were amazing and there were plenty of them out on the course. The Spectators really came out in droves to cheer on the runners. We ran through some areas of the city where college students lived and many of them were standing on the side of the street offering free beer to the runners. Some of them had guitars and were playing as we ran by, and others were just really supportive offering us encouragement when the run was getting tough. There were plenty of water stops and the bands playing on the course were a nice diversion from the pain 

There were a couple minor areas for improvement:
1. The race course itself is mostly run on the outskirts of the city. I would have liked to run a little more downtown past some different monuments and tourist attractions.
2. For some reason they were using plastic cups at the waters stations and by the end of the race there were plastic shattered cups all over the road way. This must have been a pain to try and sweep up and it was a bit slippery at times for the runners.
Aside from those minor issues I had a great time at this race and would definitely run it again.

Book Review & Giveaway: 102 Ways to Save Money for and at Walt Disney World

102 Ways to save money

To those that frequently read my blog, it’s no surprise when I say I love Walt Disney World. It’s full of magic, pixie dust, and its a place where “you leave today and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow, and fantasy”.

No matter how many times I drive under the welcome sign, I still get the same feeling of sheer happiness. Life’s problems seem to fade and the world is full of infinite possibilities.


As I check into the hotel I can see the sense of wonder and excitement on the faces of those, both old and young, just beginning their vacation.

When I walk down Mainstreet USA for the first time on my trip I feel a bit of magic in the air as I get a big whiff of fresh popcorn.

I pay close attention to the laughter and joy happening all around me and when the castle comes into view I know the vacation has officially started!


Walt Disney World is an incredible place and I’m always glad when I can find ways to help other people experience the joy and happiness that it can bring.

I’ve been given the opportunity to review a book by author and good friend Lou Mongello that will help do just that!

Many of you might know Lou from the WDW Radio Show Podcast (Winner of the Best Travel Podcast for the past eight years), his Walt Disney World Trivia Books, or even from this blog, as I run on the WDW Radio Running team.


While traveling across America speaking to groups, businesses, conferences, and schools about the magic of Disney, Lou is often asked for money saving tips. These questions come up so often that he decided to write about it. The goal of the book, as the title suggests, is to try and help provide tips and strategies for saving money for and at Walt Disney World.

We all know that a Disney trip is expensive! I go to the Disney parks at least three times a year and without a detailed plan to try and reduce or eliminate some of the costs I’d never be able to afford these vacations. I’m glad to see that many of the tips I personally use are included in this book. Lou covers how to save money for your trip, when to go, how or if you should book a package, and even how to save money when you eat.

One of the sections I really like is about not doing anything that may affect you long-term. Disney vacations are wonderful but not worth doing if you’ll still be paying for them long after you’ve returned home. This can lead to post Disney buyer’s remorse and could detract from your wanting to visit the parks again in the future.

What have I learned from the book?

I’ve been to Walt Disney World numerous times so a lot of the information in this book is already known to me. That being said, I still think it is worth purchasing for a couple of reasons:

  1. It’s a great reminder of things I tend to forget: Much of this information is available elsewhere on Lou’s podcasts and in other publications but it would take a lot of time and effort to collect it all and then consume it when you are ready to actually use it. By purchasing the book I have all of the necessary information at the tip of my fingers when I need it.
  2. I don’t know everything: Reading the book made me realize that I do know a lot about Disney and planning a Disney vacation but I still don’t know everything. I actually learned a lot reading this book and the tips on when and how to plan air fare were particularly helpful to me!

Where can you find the book?

As of the day I’m writing this, the book is only available in PDF format.  There are however, plans to release it in the iBook store as well as the Amazon Kindle store so n the future you can check there as well.

The PDF version can easily be downloaded from the blue web link below:

print-and-ipad-400 102 ways


Instructions for downloading the file to your kindle or other eReader can be found in the FAQ section HERE however I do have one recommendation. If you do decide to read it on an eReader make sure you have access to a web browser on your device. There are many helpful links in the book and without access to the web you’ll be missing out on some very good peripheral content.

My overall review of the book is very positive. If you’re a new traveler to Disney World or a seasoned veteran there are still some things to be learned. Give it a read!

Note:  I received complimentary copy of the book from Lou and he has also given me a copy to share with one of my readers.  All opinions are my own and I am not required to write anything other than an honest opinion of the book.


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Said hello to an old friend tonight…


One of my running goals this year was to try and run a full 5K without stopping. I’ve been working through the C25K program and I’m happy to say that I got up to 5 minute run intervals.

What I’m not so happy about is the fact that I’ve never enjoyed it. Not once! None of the runs were satisfying or fun and the fastest time I was able to run was still over 11 minute miles.

Tonight I decided to take a break from the C25K program and go back to my old 30/30 interval training run. I can honestly say that it was the best run I’ve had since before I got hurt in October. I was comfortable, able to get into an awesome rhythm, and best of all, I was able to drop my time down to 10:43 minute miles with negative splits and plenty of gas left in the tank.

I don’t want to give up on longer run intervals but I can’t figure out why. I’m obviously more comfortable with the 30/30. I run faster with it and I enjoy my runs so much more.

I’m really struggling with this because I want to push myself and don’t want to be a quitter. On the other hand I really want to get back to the place where I love running just for the sake of running. I don’t want it to be a chore or something I have to do just because I’m telling myself that I’m not legitimate if I take walk breaks.

Help!! I’d really like to hear your thoughts on this. Am I being a wimp if I go back to my comfort zone.

Billy Joel: Our Evening with the Piano Man

Billy Joel 1


I’ll be the first to admit that my musical taste tends to vary a lot. I generally like Hard Rock  but when I’m in the mood for something different, just about anything goes. Talented musicians of any genre amaze and inspire me and I can’t imagine a world without music.

Like me, my son loves music. Unlike me he is actually talented. He started playing the guitar when he was seven and two years ago he joined the middle school band playing percussion. Last fall we purchased a full keyboard and he decided it was time to learn the piano. When I saw Billy Joel was coming to Detroit I thought it would be a great time to introduce him to the Piano man.

Billy Joel 2


Since I made the decision to go at the last minute I didn’t think tickets would be available. I logged on to Ticketmaster the night before the show and was surprised to see:

1. They still had tickets available

2. They were only $40 each.

3. They were in the first row of the upper bowl.

My first thought was “What’s the catch?” When I put the tickets into the que I found out what the catch was. A warning sign came up telling me that the seats were behind the stage so I canceled the order. After thinking about it for while however, it occurred to me that they probably wouldn’t sell seats with no view of the stage so I decided to take a chance and grabbed the tickets anyway.

When we got to the venue I was stunned at our view. We were definitely behind the stage and looking at the back of the band but we could see the piano perfectly!

Billy Joel 3


When the lights faded Billy came out on stage and started the show with “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)”, “Pressure”, and “I Heard it Through the Grapevine”. I had a feeling he would be playing some Motown so it wasn’t a surprise when he busted out the Smokey Robinson classic.

I was able to take some video during the show and the next song “The Entertainer” was the first song I recorded.

After playing “The Entertainer” he went back in his catalog to play “Vienna” a song that he supposedly doesn’t play very often. From there he dug back into the Motown catalog by asking his back up singer to belt out a Martha and the Vandella’s cover of “Dancing in the Streets”.

Next up he played another closet classic called “Zanzibar” followed by “A Room of Our Own” and then a cover of the Beatles’ “Can’t Buy Me Love”. All of those songs were good but I was very happy when next, he played one of my all time favorites, “New York State of Mind”.


I don’t know what it is about that song that I love so much but for some reason it really gets me every time I hear it.

One of the songs I’m bummed that I didn’t get a chance to record was “And So It Goes”. This another song that I really love and they way he performed it was awesome! It was just him and the piano with no back up band at all. So beautiful!

I did get to record another favorite though…”She’s Always a Woman”


The next song “River of Dreams” was another great one. This was good not so much for the original song but for that fact that he transitioned into “Old Time Rock and Roll” right in the middle of it before finishing. Being from Detroit, I am a huge Bob Seger fan so it was really cool to see this tribute during the show.

The concert was coming to a close but not before he played “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant”

As you can tell the show still wasn’t quite done. There were a few classics missing and I was glad that ha had saved one of the best for last. “Piano Man” Was absolutely incredible. The crowd got into it and the whole thing gave me goose bumps. Of course I had to record this one.

Below is the complete set list from the show:

1. Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)
2. Pressure
3. I Heard It Through the Grapevine
4. (Smokey Robinson & The Miracles cover)
5. The Entertainer
6. Vienna
7. Dancing in the Street
8. (Martha and The Vandellas cover)
9. Zanzibar
10. A Room of Our Own
11. Can’t Buy Me Love
12. (The Beatles cover)
13. New York State of Mind
14. Everybody Loves You Now
15. And So It Goes
16. Allentown
17. Sometimes a Fantasy
18. She’s Always a Woman
19. The River of Dreams
20. (with Old Time Rock and Roll … more)
21. Scenes From an Italian Restaurant
22. Piano Man
23. Uptown Girl
24. It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me
25. Big Shot
26. You May Be Right
27. Only the Good Die Young

I’d never seen Billy Joel in concert so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’m happy to say that he didn’t disappoint. It was an incredible performance!

What concerts have you seen Lately?

Fit Friend Friday- Chris Steele


A couple weeks back I introduced you to Danielle Steele, a friend I met during my very first runDisney race. In today’s Fit Friend Friday post I get to introduce you to her husband and my marathon running buddy Chris. If you read my Disney World Marathon race report you might know that Chris and I ran the marathon together. Chris actually bested me that weekend by running the a Dopey Challenge and proving he has the endurance to knock out 48.6 miles in four days. Way to go Chris!


Name: Chris Steele
Hometown or State: White, GA
Twitter: @cstee01

When did your road to fitness begin and why did you start your journey?

I started running in early 2011 to get a little healthier and lose a little weight. I did my first 5k in May of 2011 and, although I finished, I did not have a very good finishing time. I was motivated to beat my time each race and that helped motivate me continue running.

What is your favorite type of exercise and how often do you work out?

Running has to be my favorite, and I am starting to get more into trail running.


Are you currently training for any races or competitions?
I plan on working on my speed during the early part of this year, leading up to the Peachtree Road Race 10k on July 4th. After that, I plan to begin training for the 2015 Dopey Challenge.

What fitness related accomplishment are you most proud of?
My biggest accomplishment thus far was finishing the 2014 Dopey Challenge in January. Other than that, I am proud to say that I have managed to finish one other marathon, plus a total of seven half marathons.

What are some of your fitness goals for this year?
I have a lot of goals for 2014. I am attempting to PR this year in a 5k, 10k, and half marathon. I would also like to attempt another full marathon this year if the timing is right. Also, a Spartan Race or Warrior Run would be an interesting challenge.

What advice would you give to someone just starting his or her fitness journey?
Always be working toward something or you will lose focus and ultimately lose interest. Set several small goals that will build you toward a larger one.